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The Ku Klux Klan in 

Eastern Kansas during the 1920's 




MAY 2 6 1975 

The Cmftotia State geMarck £tu4ieA 


The Ku Klux Klan in 
Eastern Kansas during the 1920's 



Volume XXIII Winter, 1975 Number 3 

by The School of Graduate and Professional Studies of the Emporia Kansas 
State College, 1200 Commercial St., Emporia, Kansas, 66801. Entered 
as second-class matter September 16, 1952, at the post office at Emporia, 
Kansas, under the act of August 24, 1912. Postage paid at Emporia;, Kansas, 


President of the College 




William H. Seiler, Professor of History and Chairman of Division 
of Social Sciences 

Charles Walton, Professor of English and Chairman of Department 
Green D. Wyrick, Professor of English 

Editor of this Issue: William H. Seiler 

Papers published in this periodical are written by faculty members of the 
Emporia Kansas State College and by either undergraduate or graduate 
students whose studies are conducted in residence under the supervision of 
a faculty member of the college. 

"Statement required by the Act of October, 1969; Section 4369, Title 
39, United States Code, showing Ownership, Management and Circula- 
tion." The Emporia State Research Studies is published quarterly. Edi- 
torial Office and Publication Office at 1200 Commercial Street, Emporia 
Kansas. (66801). The Research Studies is edited and published by the 
Emporia Kansas State College, Emporia, Kansas. 

A complete list of all publications of The Emporia State 
Research Studies is published in the fourth number of each 

The Ku Klux Klan in Eastern Kansas 

during the 1920 5 s 


Lila Lee Jones * 


The idea that lawfully constituted authorities cannot cope with 
problems of public safety, crime, racial unrest, or immorality is a re- 
curring theme in American history. Some Americans have responded 
to real or illusory crises by organizing outside the established political 
system to impose their concept of law upon the community. These 
"citizen bands'* have appeared, disappeared, and reappeared at frequent 
intervals to excite and confuse the American people. One group meet- 
ing this description is the Ku Klux Klan, a secret order which usurped 
the law during Reconstruction, disappeared, then reappeared in the 
1920s to produce public division and organized conflict until it dis- 
appeared from the national scene in the 1930 T s. 

The development and aims of the Klan can be sharply examined 
through a concentrated "grass roots" history. This study of the Klan 
during the 1920*s> therefore, focuses on the counties of Douglas, Miami, 
Linn, Bourbon, and Crawford in eastern Kansas. Indeed, it has been 
suggested that Kansans often exemplify the sentiments of the American 
people at a particular time. John J, Ingalls wrote: 

For a generation Kansas has been the testing- ground for every 
experiment in morals, politics, and social life. Doubt of all existing 
institutions has been respectable. Nothing has been venerable or 
revered merely because it exists or has endured, 1 

By examining the motives which led many leading citizens of 
eastern Kansas towns to become knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a key may 
be found to explain the rapid expansion of the secret order to nearly 
every town in Kansas by 1924 with close to 100,000 members, with 
4,600 in Crawford County alone. 3 By studying the activities of the 
Klan in Kansas, supporting evidence for the nationwide acceptance of 

* The author is a member of the faculty of Louisburg, Kansas, High School. This 
study originated as a master's thesis in History, completed in 1972, at Emporia Kansas 
State College, under the direction of Dr. Patrick G. O'Brien. 

1 John James Ingalls, "Kansas 1541-1891," Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 86 
(April 1893), 707. 

2 The Independent [Mulberry, Kansas], March 27, 1925, p. 2. 



Emporia State Research Studies 

the organization may be discovered. A thorough study of the Kansas 
Klan may also determine if the secret order was a product of the eon- 
fusing times following World War I as well as an extension of older 
secret fraternal orders which had similar aims and ideals. Finally, by 
studying the decline of the Invisible Empire in eastern Kansas, the 
causes for the failure and disappearance of this order based on ' anti- 
democratic principles may also be discovered. 8 

Because no history of the Ku Klux Klan in eastern Kansas has been 
written, the major sources of this study will be contemporary news- 
papers and interviews with those who lived in the area during the 
"twenties." Since it is very difficult to get those who are still living 
who were alleged members of the Klan to admit that they were once 
klansmen, these primary sources in this area are practically nonexistent. 
Two newspapers, one representing the Klan viewpoint and the other 
with an anti-Klan expression, are used extensively in this study. They 
are The Independent, a Klan newspaper first published in September 
1923, and the Mulberry News, an older weekly, edited by Millard F. 
Sears, who was an outspoken opponent of the Klan. The Independent 
nearly put Sears out of business, but instead it was forced to cease 
publication when the Klan began to decline. 

A massive revival of the Ku Klux Klan, or more likely a counter- 
part of the secret organization, is never an impossibility in the United 
States. A study of the conditions allowing the Klan to experience its 
successful revival in the 1920s may lead to some revealing conclusions 
on the probability of such a Klan revival in the future. Because the 
Klan nearly paralyzed the democratic processes of government and con- 
trolled the economic life of many communities in Kansas in the "twen- 
ties," it merits in-depth study. 


In December 1865, six restless young former Confederate army 
officers founded the Ku Klux Klan at Pulaski, Tennessee. It was simply 
a social club in the beginning. The members met in secret, called 
themselves klansmen, and dressed in fantastic costumes. When klans- 
men rode about the countryside at night, their costumes had the un- 
expected result of frightening many newly-freed Negroes into orderly 
and submissive behavior. After the Klan began to oppose Reconstruc- 
tion policies, it spread to nine Southern states. Waves of violence — 
lynchings, beatings, burnings, and mutilations - against Negroes soon 

3 The reader's attention is called to the recent, capable study by Charles William 
Sloan, Jr., "Kansas Battles the Invisible Empire: The Legal Ouster of the KKK from 
Kansas, 1922-1927," The Kansas Historical Quarterly, XL, No. 3 (Autumn, 1974). 393- 

Ku Klux Klan in Easteen Kansas 

spread throughout the South. With increasing protests, the Grand 
Wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest, ordered the Klan dissolved, and when 
Congress followed with laws to curb the Klan in 1870-71, it slowly 
faded away. 

According to Forrest, the Klan had been a law-and-order organiza- 
tion to restore authority to insecure and fearful Southern whites. The 
"organization was got up to protect the weak, with no political in- 
tention at all. . " 5 Stanley F Horn in the Invisible Empire also 
indicates that the clan was organized for " the protection of the 

Southern whites during the years when they had no other protection, 
and the prevention of the political overmastery of the white citizens 
by the blacks/' 2 The Reconstruction Klan operated outside the law 
to achieve its purpose, but in the minds of Klansmen what they were 
doing was right and the end justified the means. 

Interest in the mysterious order did not die when the Ku Klux 
Klan was disbanded. In 1879 Albion W. Tourgee wrote A Fools Er- 
rand, a popular novel of the Reconstruction era in which the Klan 
played an important role. Steele MacKayc suggested collaboration 
with Tourgee on a dramatization of A Fool's Errand and the play open- 
ed at Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia on October 26, 1881. After 
one successful season, all efforts failed to keep the play alive. 

The twentieth century revival of the Klan has been credited by 
various writers to three men - Thomas Dixon, Jr., D. W. Griffith, and 
William J, Simmons. Dixon, a Baptist minister from North Carolina, 
wrote The Clansman, a romantic novel of the Ku Klux Klan. He 
adapted the novel, which portrayed the redemption of the South by 
the Klan to the stage. Although his efforts in organizing a movie com- 
pany to film the story failed, D. W. Griffith, Biograph's talented young 
director, succeded in creating a twodiour-and-forty- five-minute epic 
movie of The Clansman which he called The Birth of a Nation. A 

The Birth of a Nation was a triumph in the South, but northern 
viewers were indignant. The film was egged in New York City, riots 
opposed it in Boston, and it was almost banned by the Massachusetts 
legislature. In order to fight the opposition to the film, Dixon called 
upon President Woodrow Wilson and Chief Justice Edward White, both 
Southern-born, to view the movie. With their "official" approval, the 
picture opened again in New York City. Before it was retired to the 
art theatres and film clubs, The Birth of a Nation had grossed almost 
18 million dollars. Dixon was urged to revive the fratemalistic order, 

i David M. Chalmers, Hooded Americanism: The First Century of the Ku Klux 
Klan, 1865-1965 (Garden City: Doubled-iy, 1965), p. 21. 

* Stanley F. Horn, Invsible Empire: The Story of the Ku Klux Klan 1886-1871 
{Montclair, N. J.: Faterson Smith, 1969), p. 376< 

» Steele MacKaye and Albion W, Tourgee, A Fool's Errand, ed. Dean H. K.eUer 
(MetchenL The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1989), pp. 1-17. 

"Chalmers, pp. 23^26. 


Emporia State Research Studies 

but when it was revived, it was by a man who had failed at almost 
everything he had ever tried. 

William J. Simmons was Alabama-born and reared in the tradition 
of the Reconstruction Ku Klux Klan, He dreamed for years of found- 
ing a fraternal order based on Klan principles before he successfully 
revived the Invisible Empire, After twelve years in the ministry, the 
Alabama Conference of the Methodist Church voted in 1912 to deny 
him a pulpit because of inefficiency and moral impairment. He tried 
his hand at selling for a time and finally found his calling in the field 
of fraternal organizing. He joined the Woodmen of the World, several 
varieties of Masons, a veteran's organization, and a score of other fra- 
ternal societies, as well as the Congregational and Missionary Baptist 
Churches. He held twenty-three degrees in seven fraternal orders, 
When asked his profession, Simmons always answered, "I am a fra- 

Simmons was not content with simply membership in various 
orders. His ultimate goal was to found his own fraternal society. When 
he was hospitalized for three months after an automobile accident, he 
worked out the details for the twentieth -century Ku Klux Klan. In an 
interview with William G. Shepherd in 1928, Simmons explained that 
his idea for the motto, "Non Silba Sed Anthar," was part Latin and 
part Saxon. Simmons also "dreamed up" the emblems, tokens, rituals, 
and regalia during his recuperation. His ideas were copyrighted and he 
later received $90,000 for the copyrights. 7 

The first fiery cross of the revived Ku Klux Klan was burned on 
the top of Stone Mountain near Atlanta on an icy-cold Thanksgiving 
day in 1915. Sixteen Atlanta businessmen took the oath before a make- 
shift altar and became the first members of the Invisible Empire. 8 

Neither Thomas Dixon, Jr., nor D. W. Griffith had the slightest 
idea that The Birth of a Nation would trigger a revival of the Klan in 
the South, When the film was scheduled to open in Atlanta on Decem- 
ber 6, 1915, "Colonel" Simmons published an advertisement announc- 
ing the formation of the Ku Klux Klan which read, "Knights of the Ku 
Klux Klan A High Class Order for Men of Intelligence and Char- 

acter The World's Greatest Secret, Social, Patriotic, Fraternal 

Beneficiary Order." 8 

The advertisement was crudely drawn, but soon ninety men had 
paid ten dollars to become members of Klan Number 1 in Atlanta. 
The members purchased a costume for $6.50, and forty members signed 
for $53,000 in life insurance. 1ft Simmons said later, " . there were 

- 1 Ibid., pp. 26-27. 

fl William G. Shepherd, "How T Put Over the Klan," Colliers XXCO No 2 
(July 14, 1928), p. 32. 

7 Ibid; the motto was translated by Simmons to mean "Not for self, but for others " 
s Ibid. 

Ibid., the advertisement is shown an p. 7, 
10 Ibid., pp. 34-35. 

Ku Klux Klan in Eastern Kansas 


no rough neckers, rowdies, nor yellow-streaks admitted. It was an 

order of and for men who were one hundred per cent American and 
no other." 11 

The Klan used various publicity schemes at first to attract attention. 
Simmons used cheap press-agent tricks to lead klansmen to believe that 
there were 7,000,000 members in the order instead of 600,000. 13 To 
create an air of mystery about the Ktan, Simmons claimed, "I am he 
who from the realm of the unknown wrested the solemn secret from 
the grasp of night and became the sovereign Imperial Master of the 
Great, Lost Mystery." 13 

Events of World War I provided the Klan with its direction after 
the war. Kl'ansmen were urged to contribute to the war effort. Enemy 
aliens, slackers, idlers, unpatriotic citizens, immoral women, and evil- 
doers of every description were special targets of the Ku Klux Klan. Yet, 
by 1920 the Invisible Empire was still a close-knit organization with 
only a few thousand members. New members had to be recruited if it 
was to become the national beneficent order that Simmons intended. 

Simmons was probably sincerely interested in the welfare of 
America and planned to establish hospitals, schools, and other beneficial 
institutions; yet, he was too much of a dreamer to organize and direct 
a powerful membership campaign on a nation-wide basis. For this 
work he engaged a fraternal salesman and publicity man, Edward Young 
Clarke, and his business associate, Mrs. Elizabeth Tyler, to head a huge 
membership drive. Clarke and Mrs. Tyler immediately organized a 
recruiting army to fan out over the country to enlist new members for 
a ten dollar membership fee each. By 1921 about 85,000 members 
("at ten dollars a head'*) had accepted knighthood in the Invisible 
Empire. 14 

The Ku Klux Klan became a flourishing business under the direction 
of Clarke and Mrs. Tyler, but by September 1921 they were under 
investigation for immoral conduct, and Klan finances were the subject of 
close public scrutiny in a series of articles in the New York World and 
the Journal-American. The hooded order was next brought before a 
Congressional investigating committee to answer charges of illegal com- 
mercial gains by a beneficent order. Although the Klan invited investi- 
gation, the inquiry was dropped when a bill was introduced to investi- 
gate the finances of other fraternal orders. The publicity from the 
investigation was exactly what the order needed. The Ku Klux Klan 
began to add members steadily from that time onward. 

The Simmons, Clarke, and Tyler partnership was in a precarious 
position in the spring of 1922. Tyler and Clarke were again charged 
with immoral conduct and the former resigned. Simmons, who held 
both the title of Emperor and Imperial Wizard, was persuaded to take 

11 Ibid., p. 35. 

12 ibid., p. 6. 
ia Ibid. 

14 Chalmers, p. 35. 


Emporia State Research Studies 

a vacation. Clarke, as Imperial Wizard pro- tempore, came to rely 
more and more upon ex-detective Fred Savage and Dallas dentist 
Hiram Wesley Evans to run the Klan. While Simmons was slowly los- 
ing his power in the Klan, Clarke was challenged by ambitious klans- 
men who were more concerned about their own welfare than the 
good of the organization. When Simmons returned to his desk in the 
fall of 1.922, he was forced to call a national Klonvocation, 

At the Klonvocation, the dreamer Simmons clashed with practical 
men in the Klan and came out second best. "Colonel" William Joseph 
Simmons had built up his fraternal order to the point that it was "taking 
in $35,000 daily, then he suddenly found himself on the outside look- 
ing In. In a surprise move, the Dallas dentist, Hiram Wesley Evans, 
secured enough votes to be elected Imperial Wizard. Simmons was 
permitted to retain the title of Emperor. It was an empty title, however, 
for the Imperial Wizard controlled the purse, and thus the Ku Klux 
Klan. Simmons no longer controlled the order he had founded. 13 

In an interview in 1928, Simmons explained that he tried to warn 
klansmen how his order had been swindled away from him in order to 
make money for the new leaders. "I tried to tell klansmen " he said, 
"what had happened to the Klan, but I couldn't get a hearing." 13 Then 
Simmons wrote a book to tell klansmen the truth, but Evans issued an 
order banishing anyone who read it, Simmons concluded, " it 
[the Klan] is dead to every original program and purpose." 17 

By 1922 the Klan, under its new leadership, had begun to spread 
rapidly into nearly every state in the Union. That year the Klan first 
made its appearance in eastern Kansas. It is this Ku Klux Klan, under 
new leadership and with a new purpose, with which we are concerned 
in this study. 


Governor Henry J. Allen was a bitter enemy of the Invisible Em- 
pire before it was organized in Kansas. He was aware of Klan activities 
in other states, and he was determined to oust the organization should 
it establish itself in the state. The governor was notified in July 1921 
that klansmen from Oklahoma and Texas were moving northward to 
organize the Klan in southern Kansas. 1 

The Klan unit at Pittsburg in Crawford County was among the first 
organized in Kansas. Soon, other railroad towns, including Arkansas 

15 William G. Shepherd, "The Fiery Double Cross," Collier's XXCII, No. 4 (July 
28, 1928), pp. 8-9, 47- 
ia lbid„ p. 48. 
w Ibid. 

1 Kirke Mechem, cel., Annals of Kansas 1886-1825, II (Topelca: Kansas State His- 
torical Society, 1956), 303. 

Ku Klux Klan in Eastern Kansas 

I I 

City and Coffeyville } had Klans which were controlled from the regiona 
sub-office in Kansas City, Missouri. In a clandestine effort to conceal 
the Klan's expansion into Kansas, local organizations often were as- 
signed names such as the "Sunflower Club" of Wyandotte Coimtv, The 
Bourbon County Industrial Association" of Fort Scott, and the South- 
west Trade Association" of Caney. 3 

Doubt was quickly eliminated concerning the Klans existence in 
southeastern Kansas. On February 16, 1922, 250 members of the Ku 
Klux Klan marched openly with a flaming cross at the head ot their 
parade in Caney. a In May 1922, Dr. Harry Graham of Boston, Mas- 
sachusetts, debated the merits of the Ku Klux Klan with Harry B. 
Burton mayor of Kansas City. Graham, a Klan organizer, held that 
"the Klan worked for social purity, white supremacy, the weltare ot 
the nation, and the constitution of the United States but Burton 
insisted that the Klan was "un-American, cowardly, and oppressive. 
Shortly after this debate, organizers appeared before the ministerial 
association in Emporia and declared that the Klan upheld law and order, 
opposed Catholicism, and stated that members were recruited chiefly 
from among the Masonic order. An overwhelming majority ot the Em- 
poria ministers denounced the Klan. 1 

On September 5 1922, hundreds of white-robed klansmen held* 
meeting at W infield after a plane dropped pamphlets announcing the 
place and date of the meeting. Initiation ceremonies for 200 new 
members were held a week later near Newton, where the first issue oi 
the ]mj Hawk American, a Klan newspaper, appeared on the streets. 

Shortly thereafter, Governor Allen was notified that some Arkansas 
City residents had been threatened with tar and feathers, for alleged 
offenses in letters signed by the Ku Klux Klan. Allen sent J. A. 
Me Dermott, judge of the Industrial Court, to investigate activities m 
Arkansas City. 

In October 1922 two young women members of the Methodist 
Church in Prescott, Kansas, were brought before the church congrega- 
tion to be tried for unbecoming conduct. During the trial, twenty-seven 
men wearing white robes and hoods drove into town from the West, en- 
tered the church in a single file, and marched to the table where the pre- 
siding officer was sitting. Each of the white-robed mtruders, without 
speaking, deposited a coin or a bill on the table. Before leaving he 
church, the leader of the group paused and announced solemnly In the 
name of justice." The men in white then got into their cars and drove out 
of town toward the West. Although the Klan was not known to exist 
in Linn County before this time, the members of the Methodist Church 

2 Chalmers, pp. 143-44. 

3 Mechem, p. 318. 

*Ibid. r pp. 322-23; Emporia Gazette, May 15, 1922, p. 1 and May 22, 1922, p. I. 
s Mechem, pp. 327, 328. 


Emporia State Research Studies 

at Prescott clearly recognized the men in white as members of the Ku 
Klux Klan. * 

On October 15, 1922, Governor Allen sent Judge Mc Dermott to 
Liberty, a small town ten miles north of Coffeyville to investigate Klan 
threats against the mayor, Theodore Sehierlrnan. He had refused to 
allow the Klan to use a building he owned for a meeting place. A 
group of masked men, believed to have been klansmen, seized Schierl- 
man and horsewhipped him. At Coffeyville less than two weeks later 
Governor Allen asserted in a speech that the Ku Klux Klan had "in- 
troduced into Kansas the greatest curse that comes to civilized people, 
the curse that rises out of unrestrained passions of men governed by 
religious intolerance and racial hatred." He promised that officers of 
the Klan would be expelled from the state. 7 

Less than a month after Governor Allen made his Coffeyville 
speech, ouster proceedings against the Ku Klux Klan were filed with 
the Kansas Supreme Court by the Attorney General on the grounds that 
the Klan was a Georgia corporation unauthorized to operate in Kansas. 8 

In spite of ouster proceedings against the Klan, more than 100 
members of the Ku Klux Klan paraded at Douglass a short time later. 
The members were dressed in the full regalia of the order and wore 
masks, but no disturbances occurred. 1 It was clear that the Klan was 
becoming well established in southern Kansas, notwithstanding Governor 
Allen's efforts to exclude it from the state. He had good reason to 
oppose the Klan, for it had already entered the 1922 primaries. 

Orin B. Strong, editor of The Independent, told of the Klaus 
efforts to defeat Phil Campbell, who had been involved in the "malicious 
persecution of the organization in the governmental probe and hearing 
before the House Investigating Committee," 10 As early as July 1922, 
Strong learned that the Ku Klux Klan had united with labor forces to 
defeat Campbell. Campbell was beaten, and on the day of the general 
election the efforts of the Invisible Empire were again evident. Strong 
was in Pittsburg discussing business with a banker when he learned of 
the Klan's victory in the general election. A big man, sweating freely, 

burst into the bankers office and cried, "H , we're whipped - the 

Klan is casting its vote like a lead slug and it's hitting with a dull 
thud." 11 

In March 1923, H. H. Kitchen, organizer of the Ku Klux Klan in 
Topeka, was sentenced to the Shawnee County jail after he refused 
to divulge the names of Topeka klansmen. Kitchen told the commis- 
sioner of the Kansas Supreme Court, S. M. Brewster, that he had taken 

8 "Ku Klux Klan at Prescott," La Cygne [Kansas] Journal, October 13, 1923, p. I. 
T Mechem, pp, 329, 330. 

* Ibid,, p. 330j see detailed discussion of the legal aspects in Sloan, KHQ, XL 

8 La Cygns Journal, October 6, 1922, p. 2, 

10 The Independent, January 9, 1925, p. 2. 

11 Ibid. 

Ku Klux Klan in Eastern Kansas 


the Klan oath which prohibited his naming the 140 Topekans who had 
signed the charter application. When he was asked if he thought that 
his oath was more binding than the oath he had given to the state as 
a witness or above his duties as a citizen of the United States, Kitchen 
replied that it was. He declared that the oath of a klansman "Taken 
before God" absolved him from his oath as a witness in court. Kitchen 
was then ordered back to jail on contempt charges. John S. Dean and 
W. L. Wood, attorneys for the Klan, pleaded futilely with the court 
for Kitchen's release on the grounds that the charges were unrelated to 
the ouster case which had been brought against the Klan. L1 On April 
4 } 1923, the attorneys for the Ku Klux Klan admitted that there were 
more than thirty Klans with thousands of members in the state. 13 

On April 30, 1923, the state began hearings on the activities of the 
Ku Klux Klan at Kansas City. S. M. Brewster, former attorney general, 
presided. 14 Because the state of Kansas was attempting to oust the 
Klan on the grounds that it was a foreign corporation, a new organiza- 
tion, the "Ku Klux Klan of Kansas " asked for a charter from the state 
charter board. The men who attempted to incorporate the order, J. C. 
Hopkins L. F Lutz, F. B. Crolle, Claude F Higgins, and Harland A^ 
Bullock, were all Kansas City, Kansas, men who had been members of 
the old Klan. They claimed to have retired from the Georgia organza- 
tion in order to organize a new secret society in Wyandotte County in 
1922. 13 

While the suit brought against the Klan in Kansas proceeded 
slowly the Klan continued to add new members. The Omego Demo- 
crat reported that it was no longer a secret that a Ku Klux Klan organiza- 
tion was being perfected in Oswego and the surrounding vicinity. 
Several preparatory meetings had been held with speakers making 
"One Hundred Per Cent American" speeches. The first indication 
that the Klan had been organized in Oswego came when a fiery cross 
appeared as a floral offering at the funeral of a well-known citizen of 
Oswego. . . , tT 

In June 400 members were initiated at one meeting m Wichita. 
In the same month, the first meeting of the Ku Klux Klan was held m 
Drexel, Missouri, on the state line. A number of influential Drexel 
citizens were reported to be Klan members. At the same time, it 
became known that the Klan had been established at Cleveland, Mis- 
souri another small town on the state line, and that several citizens oi 
Louisburg, Kansas, had attended these meetings and were interested in 
organizing a Klan in their comunity. lfl In July, it came to public at- 

12 La Cygne Journal, Match 9, 1923, P- 2; Mechem, pp. 354-55. 

13 Mechem, p. 357. 
i*Ibid. f p. 358. 

i» La Cygne Journal, May 11, 1923, p. 2, 

X« "Here, There, and Everywhere," The Louisburg Herald, June 14, 1923, p. 
quoted from the Oswego Democrat. 
17 Mechem, p. 360. 

« Louisburg Herald, June 21, 1923, p. 2. 


Empohia State Reseahcu Studies 

tention that the Klan was organized in Shawnee County. 18 The Klan 
held a huge celebration and barbecue in Pittsburg for members of the 
Invisible Empire, and members from over the state attended the meet- 
ing. ao When the attorney general ruled that klansmen could not 
wear masks, 1,200 robed and hooded knights openly paraded Topeka's 
streets in defiance of the ruling. 

In order to bolster the Klan in Kansas, Hiram Wesley Evans, the 
Imperial Wizard, delivered a speech in Topeka on August 6, He de- 
clared that the Klan was not in politics, but that it "wants the right men 
in the right places." " Shortly thereafter, the Topeka Klan claimed 
5,000 members, and a Ku Klux Klan wedding ceremony was performed 
near Chanute in an open-air auditorium with more than 3,500 hooded 
and robed klansmen present. iil 

In September 1923, the Klan began to issue The Independent at 
Mulberry. The paper's editor wrote: 

The battle between the Ku Klux Klan and its enemies at Mul- 
berry has now entered its second stage. The friends of the Klan 
have printed the first issue of their paper, The Independent The 
editor of The Independent is Rev. E. H. Given. He extols the Ku 
Klux Klan and explains that Roman Catholicism and the liquor ele- 
ments are the Klaus most bitter enemies. 

Mulberry enjoys the distinction of being the only town in this 
part of the country where the friends of the Kluxers have started 
a paper. This lias come about very largely perhaps, because the 
News, Editor Scars' paper, has not been much inclined to give the 
Kluxers a chance to put their side of the case before the com- 
munity. " 

Thereafter, The Independent carried Klan news. In February 
1924, the paper began to arrive in the homes of subscribers under new 
ownership and management. Dr. J. F. Sarididge, head of the Klan at 
Mulberry, purchased the paper, and Orin B. Strong became the new 
publisher. Strong said later, 'This newspaper is not an official organ 
of the Ku Klux Klah. We propagate the Klan message to the 

people of this county just as wo would any other democratic set of aims 
and ideals/' 23 

On Friday, September 28 ; 1923, The Independent described an 
initiation ceremony held in Pittsburg: 

l(l Mechem, p. 362. 

nibicL, P . 363. 
» Ihid. 
- 2 Ibid. 

23 La Cygne Journal, September 14, 1923, p. 2. 
21 The Independent, September 28, 1923, p. 1. 
tB Editorial, The Independent, August 24, 1924, p. 1. 

Ku Klux Klan in Eastern Kansas 


A class of 279 candidates was initiated into the county organiza- 
tion of the Ku Khuc Klan at an open air ceremonial held at the fair- 
grounds Wednesday night. The candidates, more than 100 of them 
from Mulberry and vicinity, were taken into the mysteries of the 
order by the light of the large fiery cross of the order, which burned 
from the time the ceremonial started until the order ended its service 
for the night. 

The Girard chapter of the order served the visiting Klansmen 
and the candidates with hot coffee and sandwiches, and cigars were 
much in evidence. The fairgrounds grandstand was seated with 

women members of the "Women of the Ku Klux Klan." They were 
invited to attend the ceremonial in a body. The initiation ceremonial 
was out of hearing distance of the visitors. The initiation was 
handled by the Pittsburg team. 2,i 

While the Ku Klux Klan appeared to be growing as fast as its 
organizers could initiate new members into the secret order, a small 
group of citizens in Crawford County met at Owl Hall in Mulberry 
for the purpose of forming a society to counter the activities of the 
Klan. The chief organizer Vas Millard F Sears, editor of the Mulberry 
New-?. According to the Fort Scott Bourbon News, which Sears claimed 
was the only paper in southeastern Kansas besides The Independent 
which supported the Invisible Empire, the Loyal Constitutionalists were 
fighting a losing battle. The Fort Scott Bourbon News was quoted m 
the Midberry News: 

The Mulberry News, anti-Klan and the Mulberry Independent, 
pro-Klan, have been warring, relentlessly. The editor of the News, 
Mr. Sears, has in imitation of the Klan formed an organization of 
his own with a few dozen members. He calls them the Loyal 
Constitutionalists. Hugh Lardner and Henry Gott, local attorneys, 
have been speechmakmg for the "Cons." The Kluxers import speak- 
ers. The Klux have about 600 members (too high by 400 - Ed.) in 
Mulberry, and the "Cons" have about 150, it is reported to us. In 
each issue of the News the editor flays the Klan and praises the 
"Cons." 27 

Sears maintained that the Loyal Constitutionalists was a patriotic 
organization to oppose the "Cult that would bind this free land of ours 
with a philosophy" which springs from greed, bigotry, and intolerance 
and tends to overthrow all that our forefathers had beneficiently budded 

^The Mulberry, Kansas, chapter of the Loyal Constitutionalists 
adopted its constitution on August 24, 1923, 20 The October 12, 1923, 

wibid., September 28, 1923, p. 1. 

2T Mulberry [Kansas] News, November 30, 1923, p, 1. 
=s Ibid. 

" Ibid., October 12, 1923, p. 1. 


Empoeia State Research Studies 

issue of the Mulberry News published the ''Purposes and Creed" of the 
Loyal Constitutionalists. The organization announced that it was a 
patriotic order for justice and all Constitutional rights. 

The Kfan Independent also told of the formation of the Loyal 
Constitutionalists. Under the headline "Anti-Klan Crowd Hold Meeting 
in Mulberry," the story read, 

Extensive advertising of a meeting of an organization known as 
the Loyal Constitutionalists for Mulberry last Friday resulted in an 
audience estimated at 150 persons, but by actual count said to have 
numbered 86, gathering at Owl Hall for the purpose of hearing E. 
E. Haney, an attorney of Girard, condemn the Ku Klux Klan in no 
uncertain terms 

Haney, who developed to be the principal speaker of the oc- 
casion devoted considerable eloquence to the fact that the Han 
members were hooded and masked, in most of their public appear- 
ances and often referred to the klan as an organization, of which its 
members wore "pillowslips" over their heads. The committee on 
arrangements, in its advance work apparently failed to properly 
instruct the "leading" members of the organization, on the proper 
time to applaud the speaker and he was often forced to bring about 
a rather prolonged pause in his talk, in order to give the chairman 
and other organizers an opportunity to start the tumult of enthusi- 
asm. 30 

In the fall of 1923, Klan chapters were known to exist in many 
eastern Kansas communities, and where they did not exist, it was prob- 
ably because the organizers were unable to be everywhere at once. In 
September, the Ku Klux Klan advertised openly in the local newspaper at 
Colony. 31 In Garnett, members of the Invisible Empire met at the 
Anderson County Courthouse and did not attempt to hide their identi- 
ties. BS It was reported in the Miami County Osawatomie World that 
the Klan was perfecting a ladies' auxiliary throughout the county. 35 

On February 29, 1924, The Independent announced that the Klan 
was making arrangements to purchase the fair grounds at Pittsburg with 
the idea of erecting a temple. ™ It is evident that the Klan was well 
established in Pittsburg by 1924. The fiery cross burned nightly and 
hooded, masked, and robed members of the Invisible Empire met 
regularly; but the Klan organizers still had many small eastern Kansas 
towns to bring into the Empire. 

30 The Independent, September 21, 1923, p. 1. 

31 Louisburg Herald, September 27, 1923, p. 2, quoted from the Lc Roy Reporter. 

32 Ibid., quoted from the Ft. Scott Tribune. 

33 Ibid., quoted from the Osawatomie World. 

3 * The Independent, February 29, 1924, p. 1. 

Ku Klux Ki,an in Eastern Kansas 


The first indication that the Klan had supporters at La Cygne in 
Linn County came when the Kansas City Times carried a news item on 
April 11, i924, about a threat to a rural school teacher. In July of 
that year the La Cygne Journal announced the official arrival of the 
Ku Klux Klan in a large advertisement that read, "Watch for the Fiery 
Cross Don't fail to come to hear Rev. Floyd Evans, a national lecturer 
talk. Everyone invited to come. Watch for the fiery cross Wednesday 
night, July 9." 35 

A large crowd estimated at 1,500 persons attended the meeting 
at the city park in La Cygne on the night of July 9. Rev. Evans and 
Rev Phillips, organizers of the order, made rousing speeches on Ameri- 
canism, and after the open air general meeting was over, a closed meet- 
ing was held at the opera house where about forty members were taken 
into the secret society of the Invisible Empire, It was estimated that 
the Klan would have 200 members at La Cygne within a few weeks 
time M On July 25, Rev. Cody, a national lecturer from Independence, 
Kansas, spoke before a large crowd at the La Cygne city park Atter 
this meeting, the Klan intermittently published notices of special lodge 
meetings at La Cygne. 31 

During the last week of April, the Mulberry Klan entertained mem^ 
bers of visiting Klaus at the Miller brothers property north of Mulberry 
It was reported that 1,811 automobiles passed through the gate that 
led into a large pasture, and hundreds of others passed by the gate. A 
large cross, burning brightly, could be seen for mfleSL The American 
flag was raised high above the cross. Strong of The Independent 
described the meeting: 

The Mulberry Klan, the largest in the county outside of Pitts- 
burg, was out in full force. Girard, Liberal, Minden, Franklin, 
Frontenac, Lamar, Cherokee, and other points were represented wei , 
while Pittsburg sent some hundreds of people, including the band 
drill teams, and the chief executive of the central organization A 
number of prominent men of the state in church and school airairs 
were present. 

Robed Klansmen directed traffic on the streets of Mulberry 
and at the point of entrance to the grounds. The formation was 
circular inside the grounds. The first row of cars being more than a 
half mile in circumference and the second and third rows m prora- 
tion The large crowd was handled without accident or an alter- 
cation. Klansmen with robes and crosses were welcomed in Mul- 
berry by townspeople and occasional cheera could be heard as the 
streets were blocked by hundreds of cars. 

as Ibid., July 4, 1924, p. 1. 
"Ibid., July 11, 1924, p. 1. 
" Ibid., July 25, 1924, p. 1. 
3 * Ibid., May 2, 1924, p. 1, 


Emporia State Research Studies 

Shortly after the meeting at Mulberry, the first open-air Klan meet- 
ing at Fort Scott was held on Evergreen Cemetery Road property. The 
meeting proved to be a political gathering. A large crowd assembled 
before a 35-foot electric cross over which the American flag had been 
draped. After a short program, the president of Pittsburg Business 
College, Professor Errabo, introduced Mart M on tee, the mayor of Pitts- 
burg, who hoped to become a candidate for governor and was seeking 
the votes of klansmen. The main speaker of the evening was Dr. E. H. 
Given, pastor of the United Brethren Church at Pittsburg and Klan 
writer for The Independent. Given was campaigning for a seat in 
congress from the third district on the Citizen's ticket. 

In July, Sears, editor of the Mulberry News, informed his readers 
(hat the Ku Klux Klan managers of the Citizen's ticket were Jonathan 
G. Miller, A. H. Carl, and Dan Wooley. Apparently these men needed 
no introduction to the residents of Mulberry and were well-known and 
influential members of the community. + " The editor of The Independ- 
ent described the Millers as "excessively rich." " These managers hoped 
to present an endorsed Klan state of candidates to the voters in the 
general election in November. 

On August 8, 1924, Sears admitted that the Klan had done much 
better in the primary election in Crawford County than he had expected, 
The main objective of the anti-Klan forces had been to keep the Klan 
from dominating the nominations on each ticket, but the election results 
showed that the Invisible Empire exercised considerable strength in 
both parties, *' 

The greatest victory for the Ku Klux Klan was the nomination of 
A. H. Carl for county attorney. "The results show that the Klan 
forces put forth their greatest efforts for this man," wrote Sears. " 
Charles Fowler was selected as the Democratic candidate for probate 
judge. His opponent in this race was M. F Sears of the Mulberry 
News. Leonard Boyd led his opponent two to one for the nomination 
of county clerk, but Lance, who was bidding for the sheriff nomination, 
lost to Sheriff J. D. Turkington. 18 

One of the most interesting races in the 1924 election was for 
governor. Neither the Republican candidate, Ben Paulen, nor Demo- 
crat Jonathan Davis were members of the Klan, When Panlen denied 
that he was a member of the Klan, he always added "at this time." The 
Klan was thought to be responsible for Paulen's nomination in the 
primary, and according to David Chalmers, "It seemed, in the late 
summer of 1924, that the Klan was on the march in Kansas and nothing 
could stop it." " 

*■ Mulberry News, July 11, 1924, p. 1. 
« The Independent, July 31, 1925, p ,8. 
41 Mulberry Hetos, August 8 r 1924, p. 1. 
* 2 Ibid. 
** Ibid. 

44 Chalmers, p, 145, 

Ku Klux Klan in Eastern Kansas 


Fearing the great political influence being generated by the Klan, 
William Allen White, publisher of the Emporia Gazette and Kansas 
keeper of the nation's conscience/' entered as an independent candidate 
for governor. Although he did not expect to win, he conducted one ot 
the most colorful campaigns that the state had ever seen. Determined 
to defeat the "organization of cowards/' he set out with his wife and 
son in his Dodye touring car and covered the state, making delightfully 
original campaign speeches for six weeks. He would tell his listeners: 

The gag rule first came into the Republican Party last May. 
A flock of dragons, Kleagles, Cyclops and Furies came up to Wichita 
from Oklahoma and called a meeting with some Kansas Terrors, 
Genii and Whangdoodles. A few weeks later, the Cyclops, 

Kleagles, Wizards, and Willopses-wallopuses began parading in the 
Kansas cow pastures, passing the word down to the shirt-tail 
rangers they were to go into the Kansas primaries and nominate 
Ben Paulen. 43 

The anti-Klan people loved this kind of talk from William Allen 
White but Kansas klansmen at the national klonvokation in Kansas 
City Missouri, carried a black coffin bearing the name of Charles B. 
Griffith, attorney general and a foe of the Klan, and led a goat labeled 
"William Allen White/' " The editor of The Independent described 
White as "Bunkum Bill" and "sleek, fat, and imperialistic Further, he 
was "a knocker, a kicker, and bushwhacker " Finally, he represents 
the Kansas City Star in Kansas [which] is supporting the Klan-endorsed 
candidate in Missouri." 1, 

In spite of White's attempt to kill the Kl'an with ridicule, and defeat 
candidates supported by it, Ben Paulen was elected governor of Kansas 
with 323 403 votes to Jonathan Davis's (Democrat) 182,861, and 
White's 149 811. White had achieved his purpose in dramatizing the 
grip the Klan had on politics in the state, however, and the dangers 
associated with the Klan's activities. * 8 W. h. White, writing of h*S 
father's campaign, said that the support 

had demonstrated to politicians that the Klan endorsement 
was in fact, a handicap as there was in Kansas a larger anti-Klan 
vote than there were Klansmen. At all events, the Klan presently 

"William Allen White, The Autobiography of William Allen White (New York: 
.,, 7, iQ^fti „ fill- also sec Robert W- Richmond, Kansas; A 

The MaaniUail Company, 1946), p, 631, also sec uoDen vv 

Land of Commit, (St. Charles, Mo.: Forum Press. 1974), pp. 236-30. on the Klan 
find the election of 1924. 
•»o Meehem, p. 389. 

« The Independent, October 24, 1924, p. 2. 

«A. Bower Sageser, "Political Patterns of the 1920V in John D Bright, cd 
Kansas The Hrrf Century II, 82. Also see "Klan Struck Powerful Blow to the 
State." The Independent, November 28, 1924, p. 1, 


Emporia State Research Studies 

disappeared from Kansas politics; and on May 5, 1926, my father 
fired in the Gazette his parting shot: 

"Doctor Hiram Evans, the Imperial Wizard of the Kluxers, is 
bringing his consecrated shirt tail to Kansas this spring 

"He will see what was once a thriving and profitable hate 
factory and bigotorium now laughed into a busted community 

"The Kluxers in Kansas are as dejected and sad as a last year's 
bird's nest, afflicted with general debility, dizziness on going up- 
stairs, and general aversion to female society." In 

The re-election in 1924 of C. B. Griffith as attorney general was 
of great importance, for he was investigating the Klan and had been 
instrumental in attempting to oust the organization from the state. 

Prior to the election, in October 1924, Charles H. McBrayer, Grand 
Dragon of the realm of Kansas, published the Klan's stand on the 
(duster suit in newspapers throughout Kansas. Addressed to "All Hydras, 
Great Titans, Furies, Giants, Exalted Cyclops, Terrors, and Klansmen," 
the letter was a defense of the Klan and an appeal for justice and fair 
treatment. It was an important piece of Klan propaganda. McBrayer 
reviewed the history of the ouster suit brought against the Klan and 
stated the charges against the Klan were contained in two counts. The 
first charge brought was that the Klan was operating in Kansas without 
a charter. The second charge was that the Klan was "a criminal 
organization, violating every law known to God and man, and many of 
them enumerated." ft0 

Sardius M. Brewster had been appointed as commissioner by the 
Kansas supreme court to hear testimony on the two counts contained 
in the official ouster petition filed on November 21, 1922. Commis- 
sioner Brewster's report stated that on the second count, "It was not 
enough for the state to show isolated cases of misconduct. It was 

necessary to show that such misconduct was carried on under the 
authority or direction of the defendant corporation." There was in- 
sufficient evidence to prove that the Klan as an organization had coerced 
citizens, although individual Klan sm en were guilty in certain instances. fil 

The first charge that the Klan was engaging in business in Kansas 
without a charter brought agreement from Commissioner Brewster. 
It was operating as a foreign corporation under a charter granted by 
the state of Georgia. " 

In January the supreme court accepted Commissioner Brewster's 
findings, and said that the Klan would have to seek a charter from the 
state charter board, The Klan interpreted the courts decision as a 

« White, Autobiography, pp. 631-32. 

M La Cygne Journal, October 31, 1924, p. 2. 

S1 Sloan, KHQ, XL, 399; Robert Richmond comments (p. 223 ), "However, the 
prosecutors and the courts had trouble keeping witnesses who were willing to testify 
against the Klan because of threats and pressures." 

" Sloan, KHQ, XL, 399. 

Mlbid., XL, 400-01. 

Ku Klux Klan in Eastern Kansas 


victory, but the press saw the decision as the first step in ousting the 
society from the state. The Klan had been charged "with many out- 
rages,'' Strong wrote in The Independent, but had been completely 
exonerated. "Of course," he stressed, "the Kansas Klan will ignore the 
Kansas supreme court decision and go right on and do business." ?' 

An attempt to get the state legislature to compel the charter board 
to act favorably in behalf of the Klan narrowly failed. Then, an ap- 
peal was filed in the United States supreme court. Later, in February 
1927, this appeal was refused. " 

The Ku Klux Klan applied for a Kansas charter May 25, 1925, G. 
Clay Baker, state senator from Shawnee County, filed the application 
with the charter board. The board had previously refused to grant the 
charter to the Independent Klan of America and a local Klan in Wyan- 
dotte County, but the new application was made on the regular form 
prescribed for foreign corporations desiring admission to Kansas. The 
purpose of the corporation was listed as follows: 

Nothing except such as is incidental to the carrying out of its 
purposes as a mystic, social, patriotic, benevolent association, the 
conferring of initiation and degree rituals, fraternal and secret obliga- 
tions, words, grips, signs, and ceremonies, and the promotion and 
establishment of subordinate organizations in accordance with the 
provision in its charter. r,fl 

The charter board rejected the Klan's application in June, because 
there were no provisions in Kansas statutes for "mystic" corporations. 
Later, the Klan filed a petition for approval as a "fraternal" organization, 
and on July 1 the charter board rejected it. 63 

Meanwhile, Klansmcn met openly throughout Kansas without fear 
of arrest, A meeting of the Klan at Girard gained such a large at- 
tendance that many klansmen left without hearing the speakers because 
they could not find standing room in the theatre in that county seat 
town. Strong observed that 1,500 klansmen at one meeting was a 
large gathering for an organization which the press claimed had been 
"ousted from the state." 8 

By 1925, the Crawford County Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, 
Kansas Realm, Number 22, boasted that it had the largest membership 
in the history of the organization. The klavern had been moved from 
the fair grounds to North Broadway in Pittsburg. ™ 

By 1926, the Headlight faction, which appears to have been a 
radical group of lecturers and writers who created divisions in the local 

54 The Independent, January 15, 1925, p. 1. 
° B Sloan, KHQ, XL, 404-05. 
^ The Independent, June 5, 1925, p. 5. 
*t Sl oa n, KHQ, XL, 404. 

u'fftg Independent, February 13, 1925, p. 1. 
" Ibid., January 9, 1925, p. 2. 


Emporia State Research Studies 

Klans, had been forced to leave the Klan at Pittsburg. Strong observed, 
"During the three years of life in this county, the organization has faced 
many tricky issues. It has been compelled to take drastic measures 
when internal dissension threatened." He said that members had be- 
come more independent and no longer tended to vote in blocs but voted 
as they pleased and endorsed whom they considered to be "clean govern- 
ment candidates," whether they were members of the Klan or not, 
"Headlight speechmakers are not inside to make revolutionary utterances, 
or to promote private wars of their own," he concluded. 00 

The fiery cross continued to burn nightly at the baseball park in 
Pittsburg in spite of the fact that some businessmen believed that busi- 
ness would have been better if it had been removed. To strangers, the 
burning cross was a novelty. Klansmen in Crawford County explained 
that they just liked to see the emblem of their order displayed as a form 
of friendly greeting. 111 

Thus, by 1926, the Klan was in retreat in Kansas. It began to take 
on the look of other fraternal orders of the day, adopting a policy of 
cooperation in public improvement projects, and professing abandonment 
of its earlier hatreds. The Invisible Empire, it seemed, was seeking 
acceptance as a social organization. 

The Klan in Kansas, and elsewhere, had a momentary rejuvenation 
with the nomination of Al Smith for the presidency in 1928. Although 
disapproving of Herbert Hoover's internationalism, at least he was a 
Protestant and safely dry, rather than a Catholic and the hero of the 
Eastern big cities. Even William Allen White, unyielding foe of the 
Klan, described Smith as a representative of the saloon and gambling 
interests and feared that he would, if elected, nullify the Eighteenth 
Amendment by some "legal trick." ,! " Hiram Wesley Evans, speaking 
with the Klan's authoritative voice, explained that the Klan would op- 
pose Smith because he was "inextricably allied with bossisrn, with nulli- 
fication, with alienism, with priest-rule." " :! 

David M. Chalmers sums up the election of Herbert Hoover, "In 
the end, the old-stock native America and prosperity were too much 
for the Irish boy from the Lower East Side. In 1928, probably no 
Democrat could have won. However, the Klan did not deserve 

any important share of the credit other than having helped condition 
the American people to such campaigns." 0,1 

There is no definite date for the death of the Invisible Empire in 
eastern Kansas. After the election of Hoover, the Klan simply continued 
to fade more and more from the public view. By the depression years, 


ai Ibid,, March 26, 1936, p. 1. 

112 Matthew and Hannah Josephson, Al Smith; Hero of the Cities (Boston: Hough- 
ton Mifflin, 1969), p. 382. 

"a "The Ballots Behind the Ku Klux Klan," The World's Work, LV, No. 3 (January 
28, 1924), 252. 

84 Chalmers, p, 303. 

Ku Klux Klan in Eastern Kansas 


it had all but ceased to exist. Horn wrote of the original Klan, "It 
was; then it was not — no man could say when the one condition ended 
and the other began." U l The Kansas Klan of the 1920 s, too, " was: 
and then it was not." 


Fanaticism and fear contributed to the Ku Klux Klan movement 
in eastern Kansas during the 1920 s. Many Americans were disillusioned 
and had a deep sense of insecurity during the period following World 
War I. This led many leading small" town citizens to the organization 
which appeared to preserve the status quo. Many persons who did not 
join the movement shared the same insecurities, but they were not 
"joiners" and did not wish to be identified with the radical Klan organi- 
zation. Some simply did not hold the fears of their neighbors and re- 
fused to hide behind sheets and pillowslips. 1 

Causes of fear in the Kansas citizenry during the 1920s are illustrat- 
ed in contemporary Klan literature. Klan writings seldom indicate that 
the Negro was a cause of insecurity. Most small towns had "Jim Crow" 
laws, and Negroes knew that they did not dare stay there overnight 
Negroes who lived in the towns of eastern Kansas were spoken of as 
"our colored" and they "knew their places." Thus, the old fear of 
miscegenation and Negro rule that had prompted the establishment of 
the original Ku Klux Klan was not prominent. 

There were, however, deep-rooted fears and insecurities among 
Kansans, as elsewhere in the United States, and the Klan gave priority 
to those related to Catholicism, prohibition, and immorality. There 
were also hints in Klan literature of fears of communism, immigrants, 
labor organizations, Jews, and corrupt government. 

Although most Klan writers began by saying that they were not 
an ti- Catholic, they ended by condemning the Roman Catholic Church 
as representing the greatest single threat to Anglo-Saxon-Protestant 
values. There were those Protestant ministers who for years had 
linked the anti-Christ and the Beast of the book of Revelation with the 
Catholic Church and the Pope. It took little persuasion on the part of 
Klan writers to convince Protestants of all denominations that the last 
days had arrived and that the Pope could overthrow the government 
of the United States as easily as the Communists had seized Russia. 

Even those klansmen who did not view the Catholic Church as a 
major threat believed that Catholics owed their first allegiance to a 
foreign power; therefore, Catholics could not be "100 per cent" loyal 

" Horn, p. 373, 

1 Personal Interview, September 19, 1969, 


Empobia State Research Studies 

fact no more tangible than the lurking presence of the Bogey Man." 
He ridiculed the idea that the Pope was going to move his headquarters 
to Washington within six months as the Klan organizers were warning 
the residents of Mulberry in 1923. Sears wrote, " it is time for 
every newspaper in the land, big and little, to get busy and tear the 
mask from the faces of these migratory marplots /' 13 

Not all of the Ku KIux Klan members in eastern Kansas waged 
a bitter "hate campaign" against Catholics. In September 1923, the 
Knights of Columbus and the knights of the Ku Khrx Klan at Colony 
advertised a benefit ball game to be held to aid the Jewish relief fund. 11 
In Garnett, members of the Invisible Empire and members of the Catho- 
lic Church met at the Anderson County Courthouse in order to adopt 
a set of resolutions to help preserve peace and harmony in the com- 
munity. Both sides denounced the radicals who had invaded their 
community and had stirred up strife and hatred among peaceful neigh- 
bors. 18 

By 1925, the tone of the Klan articles had begun to soften toward 
the Catholic Church, and writers sometimes admitted that perhaps the 
Klan had been a bit bigoted in the beginning. The Crawford County 
Klan newspaper reflected: 

The Klan, in this county, has gradually assumed an air of 
permanency. There is no particular fight left here. Today the 

Klan in this county is as conservative as the other Protestant fraternal 
organizations. Credulous Klansmen now know that there are 

no guns stored in the basements of the Catholic churches, and 
credulous Catholic mothers know that their children will not he 
kidnapped by hooded Knights after nightfall, in 

In 1926, the same source reported on the organizations increased 
tolerance, "Catholics are not being denounced by Headlight henchmen 
as 'Red necks' and 'Fish-eaters,' It is a very much improved condi- 
tion." ir 

Coupled with the idea that Catholics were less than one hundred 
per cent American was the idea that patriotism was limited to white, 
Protestant, Anglo-Saxon citizens of the United States. Thus, an exag- 
gerated sense of patriotism permeated all Klan literature. A writer for 
the Klan organ at Mulberry wrote in May of 1924, "Is it wrong to 
awaken patriotism and Christianity in the hearts of men?" IB Another 
writer stated: 

l ~ Mulberry Nexos, August 23, 1923, p. 2. 

13 Ibid. 

14 "Here There and Every where," The Louisburg Herald, September 27, 1923, p. 
2, quoted from Le Roy Reporter. 

in Ibid., quoted from the Ft, Scott Tribune. 
10 The Independent, December 1I T 1925, p. 1. 
l ~ Ibid., February 12, 1926, p. I. 
™Ihid., May 2, 1924, p. 1. 

Ku Klux Klan in Eastern Kansas 


The Klan teaches that the rights of American citizenship should 
be exercised to the fullest degree by all loyal Americans so that 
foreign and un-American influences shall not control the destinies 
and sap the loyalty of this nation. 18 

The importance of patriotism in the Invisibile Empire cannot be 
overlooked in a study of the Ku Klux Klan in eastern Kansas. The 
rituals of the Klan were steeped in patriotic display. The following 
editorial illustrates the influence of patriotic rites. The story was called 
"The Lesson." 

And sometimes we wonder why Americans — real Americans 
oppose the lesson of the Ku Klux Klan. 

Not long since we saw 5,000 men in full regalia. Twenty bands 
were playing "The Star Spangled Banner." The military step was 
perfect. Each step was in unison. Every robe was snow white, 
with red dash, made by the insignia of the order and of democracy, 
setting off the intense white. On every side were silk flags — large 
ones, the American flag. 

In the lead of this parade were 300 horsemen, all mounted on 
grey or dapple grey horses. The bridle reins were decorated with 
little flags. Every tenth rider carried a large American flag. 

Every 100th man carried a minature fiery cross. Gigantic spot 
lights played over the scene. 

At the end of the street was a large flag pole, the upper end of 
which was more than 100 feet in the air. From this was suspended 
an American flag of 30X40 feet in dimensions. Upon this flag a 
dozen spot lights were playing. As the parade neared the flag a 
dozen buglers stepped into the light. They were costumed in 
white garments. Their military bugle call rose shrilly over the softer 
"Onward Christian Soldiers" of the leading band. A space was 
cleared as if by magic in front of the flag and two hundred men 
arranged themselves in a formation spelling out the words — "Amer- 
icans nn guard." It was an inspiring sight. 

"Is there a man with soul so dead, who never to himself hath 
said, This is mine own, my native land?" 

What a lesson in patriotism this! There were no scoffers 
there. 20 

The professed patriotic spirit of the Klan during the 1920's was not 
a new element in eastern Kansas. During the months prior to the entry 
of the United States in World War I, lecturers made "one hundred per 
cent American" speeches in theatres and opera houses throughout the 
Midwest. One advertisement stated in part, "This will be a rousing 

l *Ibid., September 28, 1923> p. 1. 
™ Ibid., October 24. 1924. p. 2. 


Emporia State Research Studies 

patriotic meeting and every liberty loving person with a drop of 
American blood in his veins should be present." ~ T 

When the United States entered the war in 1917, Red Cross centers 
sprang up in every small town and community. Fraternal orders were 
extremely patriotic. Those who did not support the war whole-hearted- 
ly were considered less than 100 per cent American. Young men who 
did not readily volunteer for service were called "Yellow Streaks/' and 
although there was frequent talk of "tar and feathers" there is no 
evidence that the threat was actually carried out 22 

The telephone operators of a local company repeatedly warned 
a physician against the use of the German language over the telephone, 
and when he objected to the draft and the sending of American soldiers 
to France, he was branded a "German spy" and received so much abuse 
that he was finally compelled to publish a rebuttal in the local paper. aa 

Thus, when E. H. Given described the qualifications for Klan mem- 
bership in 1923, they were not new to small townspeople. Rev. Given 

Every man of the order takes his stand upon the highest ideals 
for the purest type of American patriotism. 

They stand upon the Declaration of Independence as the basis 
of all popular government. 

We stand for the American flag. We have but one flag, 

and it calls to the nations of the world, "Don't tread on me." The 
price of the flag was the blood of our fathers. 

To those who wemld undermine the free institutions we say 
"Hands off" and we will defend the free institutions against every 
foe, whether it be political or ecclesiastical. 24 

Prohibition appealed to klansmen, would-be klansmen, and non-klans- 
men alike. David M. Chalmers in Hooded Americanism said, "Although 
vice was always a matter of interest, the bond which united Klansman 
and churchman was a common struggle against demon mm and its min- 
ions." 25 Nowhere is this more evident than in eastern Kansas. 

Throughout Kansas, the W.C.T.U. sought an end to "this great 
evil — the liquor traffic," Sermons were preached against the sale 
of alcoholic beverages, prohibitionists found many willing disciples in 
the war against the wet forces. 

The story is told of a woman living in a tent in Miami County who 
went to the Justice of the Peace in Sugarcreek township. She said her 

- 1 Drexel Star, November 29, 1917, p. 3. 
2 - Personal Interview, September 1, 1969. 
« Drexel Star, December 16, 1917, p. I. 
24 The Independent? September 7, 1923, 
W Chalmers, p. 248. 

""Drexel Star> November 15, 1917, p. 1. 

Ku Klux Klan in Eastern Kansas 


son had become intoxicated by drinking liquor at a "blind tigei" 
operated in Drexel. Mr. J. H. Rhea, Justice of the Peace, told her that 
he had no jurisdiction in Missouri and for her to see a Missouri of- 
ficer. She told him that she could get no satisfaction from the Missouri 
officials because she did not have sufficient evidence. Shortly after 
the woman's complaints had been registered, however, the "joint" was 
visited by persons wearing white robes and white hoods pulled down 
over their faces. They proceeded to empty the contents from the 
owner's bottles, then took the operator of the tavern to the edge of 
town where he was warned to leave town and never to come back. 
No one knew who the white-robed men were, but the incident went 
down in the memory of those who remembered the incident as the work 
of the "white-cappers." " 

Most small town officials in Kansas shared the sentiments of the 
Mayor of Drexel. When he learned that there had been strangers in 
town who had been drinking and had become intoxicated on a Satur- 
day night, he inserted a notice in the Drexel Star which threatened: 
"Drexel will not tolerate any such performances. This is a prohibition 
town. Bootleggers should keep away if they don't want to get what 
is coming to them." 2K 

Upon its organization in Kansas, the Ku Klux Klan took up the 
fight against the "liquor traffic." Bootlegging had existed for years in 
Crawford County with general agreement that there was one source of 
supply, and "drunk after drunk and bootlegger after bootlegger" who 
appeared in the local police courts agreed that it was available "in 
Croweburg or a dozen other places" to the south of Pittsburg. " The 
Independent claimed that the "booze ring" received protection through 
the influence of men of means and dignity "who handled things, but 
never appeared in public with dirty hands/' 3tl 

In 1925 a number of raids on a bootlegging ring in Pittsburg were 
conducted by members of the Klan. During the first ten days of the 
"clean-up" in Crawford County by the Ku Kluxers 4,700 gallons of 
"moonshine" were confiscated. This was in addition to thousands of 
gallons of "wine, hootch, and other stuff taken.*' 51 Wrote a klansman, 
"Naturally the bootlegger and other law violaters have no love for the 
Klan " 32 

Even those who did not endorse the Ku Klux Klan in Crawford 
County had to admit that the Kluxers had done what the anti-Klan 
forces and individuals had not been able to do for years — rid the 
county of the liquor industry. Through the help of Klan-elected county- 
attorney, Heth Carl, and the efforts of the Invisible Empire, the sale 

27 George Rhea, "History of Drexel," Drexel Star, November 12, 1953, p, 2. 

-* Drexel Star, April 13, 1922, p. 1. 

39 The Independent, March 20, 1925, p. 1. 

:ti > Ibid., February 13, 1925, p. 1, 

B1 Ibid,,, April 13, 1925, p. 1. 

33 Ibid., March 30, 1025, p. 1. 


Emporia State Research Studies 

of liquor was stopped not only in Crawford County, but to some extent 
in every neighboring county. 

An editorial in The New Republic explained why some people 
joined the Ku Klux Klan. It was a parochial-mindedness causing them 
to long for the clock's return to Victorian time in order to preserve the 
status quo which seemed so much in danger. Threatening the old ways 
were the wildness of youth, the bootlegger, all night auto escapades, 
petting parties, and bad gin. People, especially those in the Middle 
West said some observers, were frightened by the rapid changes taking 
place in society. 3:1 

Even that old enemy of the Klan, William Allen White, sensed 
that the era was becoming morally corrupt. 

And where, in these glittering twenties, were the hopes which I 
and my kind had held so high in the first two decades of the new 
century? Looking around me in the gathering roar of prosperity, 
the the only rising political force seemed to be the dark bigotry of 
the Ku Klux Klan. And other sinister forces of oppression to the 
free human spirit seemed to be gathering across the seas. Where 
were our hopes and dreams of yesteryear? 

What a sordid decade is passingl It will he known in American 
history fifty years hence as the time of terrible reaction 

Corruption is rampant in high places. Special privilege is un- 
leashed and shameless. 34 

There is little doubt that the Klan appealed to many decent small 
townspeople who wanted to curb the excesses that seemed to threaten 
their way of life. When the Klan attacked the local undesirables in the 
tradition of the old vigilante law and order style of earlier days, the 
Invisible Empire was awarded a badge of respectability. 

When a married man of Drexel began to have an affair with "an- 
other woman/' the Ku Klux Klan advised the man — in a note — to break 
off the affair at once or suffer the consequences. The man heeded the 
advice of the Invisible Empire. " According to C. W. Mills, who cor- 
responded with the editor of the Drexel Star about the Klan, a signed 
letter advising the person to conduct himself properly was usually suf- 
ficient notice. 38 

The Invisible Empire, then, became the keeper of community 
morals. When anyone not in the Klan stepped out of line, the Klan 
was there to remind him that his conduct was undesirable. If that 
failed to change the violator's conduct, the Klan used more forceful 

33 "The Rise and Fall nf the Ku Khix Klan," The New Republic, LII. No. 678 
November 30, 1927), 34. 

34 White, Autobiography! pp, 627, 632. 

■" tEi Personal Interview, September 9, 1969. 

3 " Letter to the Editor, Drexel Star, October 13, 1925, p. 1. 

Ku Klux Klan in Eastern Kansas 


means. There is little evidence in the local newspapers of eastern Kan- 
sas to indicate that the Klan often had to resort to harsh measures. The 
war against the Catholic Church was carried on from the pulpit of 
protestant churches or from the speakers platform. The battle against 
immorality was usually conducted subtly. Only against "booze" did 
the Klan move forcefully from the very first. For the most part there 
seemed to be a desire on the part of small townspeople to form a 
society in which they could verbalize their fears and express their love 
of God and country. 

The Klan, of course, was not the only watcher of the morals of 
the community. The pastor of the Methodist Church at Louisburg, 
Kansas, called attention to the fact that many in the church were be- 
coming involved in harmful amusements: 

For the benefit of some who have been misled by newspaper 
reports, I call attention to paragraph 69 of the Discipline, which 
reads as follows: We look with deep concern on the great preval- 
ence of harmful amusements, and lift up a solemn note of warning, 
particularly against attending upon immoral, questionable, and mis- 
leading theatrical motion picture performances; against dancing, and 
against such games of chance as are frequently associated with 

No, Methodist, the ban is not lifted on dancing, neither sin of 
any other form. We boldly assert, as Methodists, that we are more 
than ever opposed to taking diversions us cannot be used in the name 
of Lord Jesus Christ in the ballroom or any other sin of diversion, 
at the same time claim to be a follower of the gentle Man of Gal- 
lilee, fl: 

Klansmen were urged to be on guard at all times against the evils 
in society. They were advised by lecturers and writers that there was 
not a local organization in the United States which should sit by idly 
with the excuse that there was nothing to do. Perhaps the Klan did 
become the huge secret service organization that Simmons planned, 
for one Klan writer said, "Many a bootlegger and illicit narcotic dealer, 
many a trafficker in the shame of womanhood, many a vagrant, 
loafer, and thief has met his downfall directly owing to information 
lodged with the proper authorities." ?fl The Invisible Empire working 
with law enforcement bodies was confirmed in The Independent, "The 
Klan is also a civic asset in the cause of law enforcement. Klansmen are 
sworn not only to obey the law themselves, but also to aid the consti- 
tuted authorities in enforcing them." 88 

One of the first examples of the Invisible Empire's efforts to clean 
up a community's morals was in Shawnee County where the Klan 

« Louisburg Herald, July 3, 1924, P. 1. 

38 The Independent, September 28, 1923, p. 1. 

™ Ibid. 


Emporia State Research Studies 

started a campaign to "clear the highway of spooners" in July of 1923. " 
In November 1924, the Pittsburg Chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, includ- 
ing the Women of the Klan, resolved that public dance resorts operating 
for profit should be closed. A reporter for The Independent wrote: 

Booze, youth, and ignorance have played a large part in making 
profitable these debasing episodes. In this community most of the 
cases of assault between the sexes have followed dances where they 
got the inspiration for rash and immoral acts. Like the saloon 
keepers the dance managers have paid no heed to public sentiment. 

Every few days some rotten scandal of lost youth and blasted life 
comes to the surface To capitalize the weaknesses and the follies 
of youth for money is what the K.K.K. and other organizations are 
trying to break up. 41 

Intense nationalism encouraged Americans to avoid all European 
complications. A flood of immigrants whose ways were alien to Idans- 
men and the bolsheviks associated with the "Red Scare" were threats 
to the social order that the Invisible Empire was struggling to preserve. 
Warnings, too, came about the dangers of an influx of starving Euro- 
peans who could affect the economy. 43 

There is little in Kansas Klan literature, however, to suggest that 
communism was regarded as a primary threat to society. Robert Mur- 
ray indicated that there were only a few raids on Reds in the Midwest 
and "Only in Kansas City was there much activity." 43 Chalmers pointed 
out that the Ku Klux Klan discovered communism in the 1930s, but by 
that time the Klan had ceased to be an influential force in eastern 
Kansas, 14 Thus, the fear of communism was not too significant in 
causing men in small Kansas towns to join the Klan, 

The Ku Klux Klan was strongly ant i -immigrant. The attitude of 
the Klan Wizard, Hiram Wesley Evans, toward immigration was ex- 
pressed in The Independent. The Wizard stated: 

A large number among the vast hordes of immigrants who have 
reached our shores in the last thirty years have been Catholics. An- 
other larger percentage of this horde have been Jews. In Protestant 
America we must have time to teach these alien people the funda- 
mental principles of human liberty before we permit further masses 

™ Mechem, p. 362. 

^ The Independent, November 12, 1924, p. 2. 

42 Arthur Coming White, "An American Fascismo," Forum, LXXII, No. 5 { Novem- 
ber 1924), 636-638. 

43 Robert Murray, Red Score; A Study in National Hysteria, 1919-1920 (Min- 
neapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1955 ), p. 217. 

' 1J Chalmers, p. 5. 

Ku Klux Klan in Eastern Kansas 


of ignorant, superstitious, religious, devotees to come within our 

From every angle our country and its institutions are in danger, 
and no danger is greater or more destructive than the infiltration of 
peoples and ideas which are not American. 4B 

A week later, his opinions on the subject again appeared: 

three millions and more have come — quite enough for 
today and for fifty years beyond. Until these millions are dis- 
tributed, Poland, Rouinama, and Russia must find other ports of 
entry for their Semitic subjects. The native-born, white Protestant 
Christian American has all the foreign population of Europe and of 
Asia that he can digest or assimilate, or even entertain. 4 " 

It is difficult to assess a direct, unanimous pro- or anti- labor stance 
for the Kansas Ku Klux Klan. Many members of the Invisible Empire 
tended to agree with the rural Kansas view that strikes and labor quar- 
rels were the products of foreign agitators. Nevertheless, the Klan got 
supporters among striking railroad workers, especially in the Arkansas 
City area, when black workers did not join the strike in 1922. Or- 
ganized labor did not like Governor Henry J. Allen, the proponent of 
the unique Industrial Court; Allen was an opponent of the Klan; some 
workers supported the Klan because of Allen's opposition. On the 
other hand, a close ally of the Klan was the Associate Industries, re- 
presenting such major corporations as the packers and railroads, through 
John S. Dean, Topeka attorney, who served as counsel for both groups. 
This "association actively fought labor and opposed such shocking no- 
tions as factory inspection and the minimum wage." 17 Still, it is true 
that the labor vote joined the Klan vote in gaining a number of offices 
for candidates endorsed by Ku Klux Klan, Robert W. Richmond renders 
the basic judgment, "Organized labor as a whole was not solidly behind 
the KKK." iB 

Why did Kansans become members of the Invisible Empire? Was 
it strictly out of fear and insecurity or were there other factors causing 
the ranks to fill so rapidly? According to Stanley Frost, the Klan was 
expedient. It used bootlegging, high railroad rates, or the latest local 
scandal to further its cause. The Klan both reflected and exploited un- 
rest and dissatisfaction with ''the high cost of living, social injustice and 
inequality, mal-administration of justice, political corruption, hyphenism, 

46 The Independent, December 28, 1923, p. 1. 
« Ibid., January 4, 1924, p. 1. 

47 Chalmers, p. 145. 

* 8 Richmond, p. 228; also see Francis W. Schruben, Kansas in Turmoil, 1930-193G 
(Columbia, University of Missouri Press, 1969), pp. 11-12, 14, 18, find Sloan, KUQ } 
XL, 393-96. 


Emporia State Research Studies 

disunity, yn assimilated and conflicting ideals and standards." Klan 
strength existed "because it offers what no one else has offered: a 
solution which, whether right or not, is fundamental and all-embracing 
in that it calls for a return to a time-honored standard." J " 

The growth of fundamentalism in protestant America also played 
an important role in the Invisible Empire. Fundamentalism challenged 
the new developments and sought to entrench traditional doctrines and 
practices. It was at times a bitter and divisive movement which was 
often militant. Its leaders were charged with stirring up conflict as 
much for the fove of a fight as for love of truth. The movement tended 
to identify Christianity with patriotism and was influenced by the stream 
of superpatriotism which marked the 1920's. One fundamentalist leader 
preached "100 per cent Americanism" and said patriotism and Chris- 
tianity are synonymous terms just as hell and traitors are synonymous. 
Although fundamentalism declined rapidly after 1925, its influence con- 
tinued in certain congregations and small denominations. Many who 
agreed essentially with its doctrines turned away because they did not 
want to be associated with its spirit of bitterness and strife. It is not 
difficult to see the parallels between this movement in protestant 
churches and the Ku Klux Klan. Like the Ku Klux Klan, fundamental- 
ism introduced harmful tensions into the churches which offset its 
worthwhile contributions. K 

The Ku Klux Klan, then, can be viewed as an inevitable product 
of the 1920 ? s. Fear and insecurity led many Kansans into the In- 
visible Empire, but all of those who became members of the secret 
order in eastern Kansas were not revolutionaries or simply chronic mal- 
contents. Many represented honest laborers and small town business- 
men - bankers, ministers, publishers of small town weeklies, lawyers, 
doctors, and merchants. Insecure in the present and apprehensive about 
the future, they turned against those things which they saw as 
threatening and alien to them. When the enemies failed to materialize 
or were eliminated, the knights no longer had anything to fear and 
their crusade collapsed. 


Conditions of the past also contributed to the spectacular success of 
the Ku Klux Klan in eastern Kansas during the 1920's. From its earliest 
days Kansas produced an environment in which secret societies could 
thrive. There is a record filled with fear, intrigue, vigilance, and the 

"Stanley Frost, The Challenge of the Klan (Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill, 1924) 
pp. 170-71. 

50 H. Leon McBeth, "The Fundamentalist Movement," Source: Church Training, 
U No. 2 (January, February, March, 1972), 38-40. 

Ku Klux Klan in Eastern Kansas 


formation of secret orders to protect life and property, The Ku Klux 
Klan furnished a last link in a long line of secret organizations that 
existed in Kansas from territorial days. 

Many of the first residents in the area were single men from Mis- 
souri. They formed roving bands called "posses," and they interviewed 
all newcomers, telling them that death was all that was in store for those 
who opposed the pro-slavery faction. "Without even the shadow of 
authority, life was taken and property confiscated by the antagonistic 
element. The social and political system was unique and peculiar to 
the country." 1 

Secret Indian treaties made in Washington D. C. were made known 
to these pro-slavery people through secret organizations. They learned 
which lands would be thrown open for settlement; moreover, it was 
desirable that this information reach only those who would strengthen 
the pro-slavery cause. Naturally, this valuable information was closely 
guarded so that free-state men did not settle on newly-opened lands. 2 

Free-state people had to organize to protect themselves from pro- 
slavery forces. Secret anti-slavery organizations, which were formed 
along the border, were known as "Jayhawkers," "Wideawakes," "Red- 
legs/' and perhaps by other names locally. Jayhawkers in Linn County 
"cleaned up" Linn County and made it safe for anti-slavery people to 
settle there. 8 The Wideawakes was organized in other northern states 
and spread to Kansas where it probably absorbed nearly every free- 
state man in the territory. The Kansas Redlegs was an independent 
secret military order organized for "desperate service along the Border." 4 

Wayne Gard has stated: 

Kansas, born in violence, had vigilance groups almost from its 
start. These stern plainsmen rid many communities of horse thieves 
and desperados. As elsewhere, the secret bodies sometimes de- 
generated into mob rule or were used for private vengeance. But 
usually they were made up of law-abiding, responsible citizens who 
wanted only to maintain order and to protect lives and property. 
Most of them were formed only as occasion arose and were 

disbanded as soon as their task was done, a 

The basic principle of the Ku Klux Klan was the same as that of 
the vigilantes in that it was extra-judicial. The organization was not a 
court, heard no evidence, but dispensed justice on the spot without 
answering to any higher authority. 

1 William Ansel Mitchell, Linn County, Kansas — A History (Kansas City: Campbell- 
Gates, 1938), p. 93. 
*IWd., p. 53. 
»ZfeAi, pp. 17-18. 

4 William Elsey Connellcy, WUliam Qnantr'dl and the Border Wars (New York: 
Pageant Book, 1956), pp. 411-17. 

5 Wayne Gard, Frontier Justice (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1949), 
p. 195. 


Emporia State Research Studies 

William Starr Myers believed that the Ku Klux Klan was an exten- 
sion of older orders. He saw it as a continuation of the "Know Noth- 
ing" movement of the 1850*8, which opposed the naturalization of 
foreign-born immigrants and the Roman Catholic Church. It used the 
secret grip and signs, passwords, and .strange rituals. The Know Noth- 
ing Society professed the highest type of American patriotism, yet its 
un-American radical acts, religious prejudices, and racial hatreds sowed 
the seeds of its own failure. fi Other writers in the 1920 s found similar- 
ities between the Ku Klux Klan and the Know Nothing movement of 
the 1850's. R. A. Patton said that the selling points of both groups 
were the same. 1 Noel P. Gist later found the same comparison in his 
thorough study about secret societies. h 

Another wave of extremism spread over the country in 1882 with 
a third peak of immigration. As a result, the American Protective As- 
sociation was organized in 1887 along the same lines as the Know 
Nothing order. It found many converts in the Midwest and formed 
yet another connecting link between the early secret societies and the 
Ku Klux Klan of the 1920's. It endorsed nativism, opposed the Cath- 
olic Church and Catholic immigration, and was especially strong in 
Kansas. * 

Only Catholics were excluded from the American Protective As- 
sociation. The only requirement for admission was that the members 
owe their primary allegiance to the Constitution of the United States, 
but members interpreted this requirement to exclude Roman Catholics, 
The society was nonsectarian and considered the public school the 
bulwark of American society. The order favored stricter immigration 
laws and was against the enlistment of non-citizens in the armed forces 
of the United States, ] " 

One of the strongest and most popular of the secret orders in east- 
ern Kansas was the Anti-Horse Thief Association. By 1862, horse 
stealing had become so common in eastern Kansas that it was necessary 
for the citizens to band together in order to protect their property, At 
a meeting of citizens at the home of H. D, Ward, a mile northeast of La 
Cygne, eighty men were enrolled in the organization to detect and im- 
prison horse thieves. This was probably one of the first meetings to 
form the lodge which became the state-wide secret order known as the 
Anti-Horse Thief Association. 11 This organization was still in existence 
in eastern Kansas in the 1920's. It probably had the longest life of any 

■ William Starr Mytrs, "Know Nothing and Ku Khix Klan," North American Review, 
CCXIX, No. 818 {January 1924). 1-7. 

r R. A. Patton, "A Ku Klux Kkin Reign of Terror," Current History, XXVIII, No. 1 
(April 1928), 51-55. 

h Noel P. Gist, Secret Societies: A Cultural Study of Fraternalism in the United 
States in The University of Missouri Studies, XV, No. 4 (October 1, 1940), 35-36, 49. 
" Mecklin, p. 138. 

I& Richard Wheatly, "The American Protective Association," Harper's Weekly, 
XXXVIII, No. 1975 (October 27, 1894), 1017-18. 
"Mitchell, p. 238; also see Gaid, p. 198. 

Ku Klux Klan in Eastern Kansas 


of the secret Kansas societies which came into existence during or 
shortly after the Civil War. 

In the 1920's the Anti-Horse Thief Association was a secret order 
which held annual conventions, participated in local affairs, and ap- 
prehended those charged as thieves. A horse thief was seldom arrested, 
but thieves were frequently caught stealing harness or chickens. For the 
most part, however, the members simply got together regularly to 
enjoy wolf drives, oyster suppers, and picnics with their friends and 
families. The New Lancaster lodge in Miami County and the lodge at 
Washington School in Sugarcreek Township often held joint meetings. 
At La Cygne the Anti-Horse Thief Association held a Street Fair an- 
nually, and still practiced its original function as late as the 1920's. On 
October 27, 1922, the following article appeared in the La Cygne 

Charlie White, who entered a plea of guilty on the charge of 
harness stealing in the district court last week and was sentenced to 
serve a term in the penitentiary, owes his capture and conviction 
largely to the efforts of the La Cygne A. H. T, A. lodge which was 
on the lookout for him from the time it received word of his theft 
of harness at Spring Hill the week before he repeated the offense 
at Mound City. '"' 

Most members of the Anti-Horse Thief Association were farmers. 
Nearly every farmer in the Washington community in Miami County 
was a member of the lodge and - if suspicious strangers lingered too long 
in the community, their actions were reported to the members. The 
members were armed in order to arrest thieves. One member of the 
Sugarcreek Township order claimed that his old-time six-shooter would 
"shoot six times and throw rocks for ten more rounds." 18 

In addition to the secret vigilante-type of organizations in eastern 
Kansas, there were many old, respected fraternal - orders. By the 1920 ! s, 
when the Klan appeared in eastern Kansas, the social life of each small 
community was thoroughly organized. The Masons probably made up 
the largest fraternal brotherhood, but the Odd Fellows, the Modern 
Woodmen, and the Knights of Pythias were just as active and claimed 
large memberships. 

Members of the secret orders were the leaders in the small com- 
munities in the 1920's, Businessmen and churchmen, especially, were 
joiners. As a rule, farmers joined the Anti-Horse Thief Association, 
the Grange, or the Modern W 7 oodmen. When the Klan arrived, some fra- 
ternalists in Kansas became Knights of the Invisible Empire upon the 
invitation of their friends. 14 Chalmers explains that the "social order 
was also a basic American way of doing things, a traditional instru- 

1: "A. H. T. A. Scores," La Cygne Journal, October 27, 1922, p. 1. 

Personal Interview, September 9, 1969. 
l * Personal Interview, September 19, 1969. 


Emporia State Research Studies 

ment against evil and the weapon of a mass in-group society against 
corruption, immorality, the outsider, and change." 15 Arthur Corning 
White asserted that "the middle class American man simply adores 
ritual, regalia, and 'hokum. 5 These constitute his greatest social diver- 
sion." 1,1 

For the most part, the leaders in the lodges were important men in 
their communities, and many of them became the first to don the 
"pillowships and bedsheets." According to one observer about a 
particular town, it was thought that the mayor, the bankers, church 
leaders, merchants, and other civic-minded citizens became members of 
the Klan because they were first of all fraternalists. 1T The names of 
many secret orders occur frequently in an early portrait and biographical 
history of citizens of southeastern Kansas. In addition to the American 
Protective Association, which was quite active when the history was 
published, the orders which appeared in the biographical sketches in- 
cluded: Anti-Horse Thief Association, Order of Select Friends, Pa- 
triarchs of America, Masons, Odd Fellows, Eastern Star, Knights of 
Pythias, Modern Woodmen, Woodmen of the World, Mystic Workers 
of the World, and many others. In a survey of these sketches published 
in 1894, 181 of the 330 persons recorded were listed as members of 
at least one secret order. Many men joined several orders. Joseph 
C. Wells, an attorney and real estate dealer at Erie, belonged to twenty- 
two different lodges. 1JS 

In 1920, the small town of Drexel with a population of 500 was 
typical in that it supported ten active churches and at least eight major 
fraternal lodges. In addition, there were numerous Sunday School 
classes and social clubs which met regularly. The social life of the 
community revolved around its complex system of church, social, and 
fraternal orders and little else. Chalmers said, "America has long been 
a nation of joiners, of men bound together for campanionship and com- 
munity purposes." 10 

The Klan entered a society already receptive to fraternal orders 
using secret passwoods, handshakes, and rituals binding members in 
brotherhood. Many of these organizations restricted membership to 
Caucasians, adopted distinctive regalia, and claimed patriotic purposes. 
Thus, these flourishing conditions in every small community and town 
in Kansas made it respectable for members to join yet another organi- 
zation promoted on the plain of high principles. The role of secret 
orders in Kansas from territorial days until the 1920's was significant in 
Kansans accepting the Ku Klux Klan. 

1G Chalmers, p. 291. 

« White, Forum, LXXTT, G3S, 

)7 Personal Interview, July 4, 1971. 

™ Portrait and Biographical Record of Southeastern Kansas (Chicago: Biographical 
Publishing Co., 1894), p. 404. 
lfl Chalmers, p. 292. 

Ku Klux Klan in Eastebn Kansas 



It has been estimated that in 1923 about 60,000 Kansans owed 
their allegiance to the Invisible Empire. 1 In 1924 the number increased 
to its top figure, nearly 100,000. " By 1930 there was little to indicate 
that the Ku Klux Klan had existed in the state. 

The order had begun to decline by 1925, and by 1928 even the 
presidential candidacy of Al Smith, a Catholic, failed to fire the Klan 
survival. It did not come to an abrupt end on a specific day in eastern 
Kansas; it just dissolved. To discover the causes of its demise, a 
number of factors must he taken into consideration. 

The adverse press that the Klan received nationally, as well as 
the negative publicity it received locally in papers like the Mulhcrnj 
News, Emporia Gazette, and the Kansas City Star, simply added fuel 
to Klan fires in small communities throughout eastern Kansas. Small 
townsmen believed that the Kansas City Star was allied with "bossism 
and eastern interests" and was no true friend of midwestem people. 
Also, newspapers in the East attacking the Klan were believed to favor 
seaboard banking interests, the long-time enemies of eastern Kansas 
farmers. To many Kansans, all journalism was under the control of 
"sinister interests and never told the truth." :i They concluded truth 
could best be obtained from local papers or Klan sources. The Klan 
thrived on this criticism for awhile in its formative period, but in the 
long-run the relentless opposition of important segments of the press 
did have an effect in reducing the Klan's prosperity, 

Governor Henry j. Allen led the governmental opposition to the 
Klan, and the necessary ouster suit met success when the Klan failed to 
gain a charter in Kansas. (See section IL) William Allen White's 
entry into the gubernatorial contest in 1924 as an outspoken anti-Klan 
independent candidate further publicized the unfavorable political in- 
fluence excercised by the Klan members. 

Perhaps one of the most important factors in the decline of the 
Ku Klux Klan was the insistence upon the wearing of the mask. So long 
as the members wore masks at public gatherings, parades, or forays 
into the local churches, many who were not members believed that the 
Klan was an organization made up of cowards. More than one person 
in small communities agreed with the idea that those who hid behind 
a mask "must have had something to hide."" Another person inter- 
viewed voiced the opinion that a real man would not have to wear a 
mask in order to get things done. B The mask created not only suspicion 

1 Richmond, p. 227. 

- Chalmers, p. 144. 

a New Republic, LIH, 34. 

4 Personal Interview, September 12, 1969. 

3 Personal Interview, September 19, 1969. 


Emporia State Research Studies 

and mistrust, but a certain sense of fear, even in those who believed in 
the principles if not the methods of the Klans. 

M. F. Sears, who published the Mulbepnj News, explained his 
sentiments about the mask in an editorial in 1923. He wrote; 

In declining to sign a petition tor permission for the Ku 
Klux Klan to hold its parade last Saturday, the editor of this paper 
uffered to sign the petition if the Klan would agree to parade un- 

The Klan mask is the offender. It is intolerable. It is incon- 
ceivable to us how a lot of good men are able to justify themselves 
in concealing their identity in their activity in any effort they regard 
as necessary and worth while. Any man with red blood in his veins 
who accounts the objects of the Klan as essential to the perpetuity 
of this government or to the supression of crime that is threatening 
the .social order, ought to have the courage to get out in the open 
and make the fight. " 

In 1924 Sears quoted a leader of a group of men at Joplin, Mis- 
souri, who said, "We intend to tear off the masks of secrecy and make 
candidates come nut in the open and state their stand. ' In 1927 a 
writer for The New Republic declared that there were those who were 
determined to stamp out the "rule of mask and lash." * Stanley Frost 
reviewed the retrogression of the Klan for The World's Work in Febru- 
ary 1928 and concluded, "The refusal to unmask must be ranked as 
one of the Klan's greatest and growing weaknesses," Still, the In- 
visible Empire refused to let its members unmask. 

In time, many klansmen came to realize that the Ku Klux Klan 
ran contrary to democratic government. Although claiming to uphold 
the Constitution, the order actually was an invisible empire within the 
United States. The ruler of the empire was in essence a dictator who 
was, himself, invisible. Furthermore, the Klan members ignored the 
right to a trial by jury, even as they were assessing the guilt or in- 
nocence of the "condemned" and dispensing threats or punishments at 
will. With little more than a vicious propaganda squad to provide 
evidence, old scandals were revived and threatening letters were sent 
to the "guilty." In ignoring constitutional civil rights, persecution was 
levied upon Catholics, blacks, and foreign-born. 

Even klansmen came to realize, in time, that all was not as it should 
be within the Klan. In 1926 the Mulberry Klan newspaper confessed that 
the organization there had been exploited by an unscrupulous political 
element within it, and with the "elimination of Headlight control" things 

Mulberry News, October 12, 1923, p. 1. 
" Ibid., March 21, 1924, p. 4. 
B New Republic, LIII, 33. 

n Stanley Frost, "The Masked Politics of the Klan," The World Work, LV. No. 4 
(February 192b), p. 402. 

Ku Klux Klan in Eastehn Kansas 


were vastly improved. " Writers in The Independent during that year 
admitted disastrous mistakes in Klan leadership, and that many men 
had left the organization because of the radical element in control. 
One person later said in an interview, "Some of the leading business- 
men of the town hinted that I should join the Ku Klux Klan, but it was 
too radical for me. Every time there was a public meeting of any 
sort, someone got up in a sheet and pillowcase and started making 
wild statements." 11 By 1926 much damage had been done, and the 
good will of the non-members of the Klan at Mulberry had been 
lost. 1S 

Although the depression years confirmed the final collapse of the 
Invisible Empire in eastern Kansas, the order had already fallen into a 
decline leading to dissolution before hard times made it impossible for 
members to pay their dues, A major explanation for the collapse of the 
Ku Klux Klan at the end of the 1920's may be found in its advocacy of 
prejudices incompatible with those values openly declared by a demo- 
cratic society. 

10 The Independent, February 12, 1926, p. 1. 

11 Personal Interview, September 19, 1969. 
i-The Independent, February 12, 1936, p. 1. 

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